Roman Emperor Hadrian Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Emperor Hadrian proved to be one of the most important leaders of ancient Rome, helping to set the Roman Empire's boundaries, most notably by building a massive wall in northern Britain. Learn about Hadrian's life and achievements in this lesson.

In Charge

Imagine that you get to be in charge of an entire country and anything that you say goes. That might sound great, but you also have to deal with people outside your country who might attack you. That was the situation that the Roman Emperor Hadrian faced nearly 2,000 years ago when he became the most powerful person in all of Europe. Hadrian had a number of challenges from inside and outside the Roman Empire, but his achievements mean that he is remembered as one of the great emperors of ancient Rome.

Bust of Hadrian
Sculpture of Hadrian

Starting Off

Hadrian grew up in modern-day Spain. While this was far away from the capital of the Roman Empire, Hadrian had an advantage because it was also the home region of the previous emperor, Trajan. Hadrian's father was the cousin of Trajan, meaning that Hadrian had a great connection to power. Can you imagine what you could do if you were related to a president or a king?

Under the emperor's watchful eye, Hadrian served in the military and became a judge in the law courts. Hadrian married Trajan's niece, and when Trajan died in the year 117, Hadrian was named the new emperor. In fact, Trajan named Hadrian his heir, or the next person to take control, on his deathbed, an act that was very suspicious!

Ruling an Empire

As soon as Hadrian became the new emperor, he changed a lot of ancient Roman policies. For instance, he decided that the army would stop its fighting in the eastern part of Europe, because he believed the empire had stretched too far. Hadrian also withdrew Roman soldiers from parts of the Middle East. He did this to prevent rebellions, or people fighting against Roman rule.

To keep his empire safe and establish its boundaries, the areas that it controls, he built a number of forts and walls. The most famous of these crosses over all of northern England and is remembered as Hadrian's Wall because the project was so large. Much of the wall still survives to this day.

Inside the Walls

While his efforts to determine the Roman Empire's boundaries made him famous, Hadrian also changed a lot of policies that affected people inside the empire. He created a system for public welfare and was one of the first emperors to travel to distant parts of the empire to meet the people and see the places.

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